A unique 2030 World Cup is set to be played in Europe and Africa with the surprising addition of South America in a deal to allow the men’s soccer tournament to start with a 100th birthday celebration in Uruguay.
FIFA reached an agreement Wednesday between soccer’s continental leaders to accept only one candidate for hosting the 2030 tournament, the sport’s governing body said.
The Spain-Portugal bid grew to add Morocco this year and now also includes longtime bid rivals Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. All six national teams will get automatic entry to the 48-team tournament, FIFA said.
It is the first time the World Cup will be played on more than one continent.
A key lure of the unprecedented three-continent project will be opening in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, where the Centenario Stadium hosted the inaugural 1930 World Cup final.
“The centennial World Cup could not be far from South America, where everything began,” said Alejandro Domínguez, president of South American soccer governing body CONMEBOL. “The 2030 World Cup will be played in three continents.”
The consensus reached by once-rival soccer continents also let FIFA fast-track the opening of the 2034 World Cup bidding contest, limited to member federations from Asia and Oceania.
Saudi Arabia immediately entered that contest, and Australia is also interested after successfully co-hosting the Women’s World Cup this year with New Zealand. Either way, the 2034 tournament will almost certainly be played in November and December — like last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Accelerating the choice of a 2034 host to the end of next year will be widely seen as a victory for Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has built close ties to FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
“We want to celebrate our football culture and share our country with the world,” Yasser Al Misehal, the president of the Saudi soccer federation and a member of the FIFA Council, said in the government’s statement announcing its intention to bid.
The FIFA Council’s acceptance of a unified 2030 candidacy still needs formal approval next year at a meeting of the 211 member federations. That should be just a formality. The 2034 pick will be made at a separate congress, FIFA said.
“In 2030, we will have a unique global footprint, three continents — Africa, Europe and South America — six countries — Argentina, Morocco, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain and Uruguay — welcoming and uniting the world while celebrating together the beautiful game, the centenary and the FIFA World Cup,” Infantino said in a statement.
The 48-team, 104-game tournament scheduled for June-July 2030 is planned to start with games in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay before the action moves to core host nations Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
The plan involves an unprecedented amount of travel across distances and time zones and was not popular with Football Supporters Europe, the fan group officially recognized by European soccer governing body UEFA.
“FIFA continues its cycle of destruction against the greatest tournament on earth,” FSE said in a statement. “Horrendous for supporters, disregards the environment and rolls the red carpet out to a host for 2034 with an appalling human rights record.”
The South American co-host bid has been promoted since the 2018 World Cup in Russia and had included Chile, which was not mentioned Wednesday.
Ukraine was also dropped after having been added to the European bid a year ago at a news conference at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland. It has not been mentioned in official comments about the UEFA-backed bid this year.
The first 48-team men’s World Cup will be hosted in 2026 by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
The 2030 decision marks a victory for Morocco, which has invested heavily in infrastructure in its largest cities and last week was chosen to host the 2025 African Cup of Nations. The men’s national team helped push its case by reaching the World Cup semifinals in Qatar, eliminating Spain and Portugal in the previous rounds.
It will be the second African nation to host the tournament after South Africa in 2010.
In a statement on Wednesday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s Royal Cabinet said the selection “recognized Morocco’s choice place in the ranks of great nations.”
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had expressed public concern that Luis Rubiales — who was president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) until he resigned after widespread condemnation — could derail the bid to host the men’s World Cup if he remained in office.
Sánchez said in Spanish on X, formerly Twitter: “We will show the strength of our country as champions of the men’s and women’s world titles, and we will defend the values of equality, solidarity and fair play that should always be present in sports.”